Conversation between Gillo Dorfles and Aldo Colonetti
research, new technologies and new materials continue to advance, but more and more frequently we question the relationship between design and craft, between the “handmade” and the industrial process. What are your thoughts on this today?
the reflection regards a fundamental theme of design, not just the role of craftsmanship. Man has an ever increasing need to create objects that have a strong symbolic potential, so that they can emerge from the ocean of other limitlessly expendable objects. In short, we are prey to a daily fetish that we must deal with; this explains our incessant search for “exceptional” products which stand out from a generalised standardisation and conformism. From this point of view, the concept of “handmade”, which is central to the artisan culture, is fundamental.
Gillo, couldn’t a bit of artisan culture be useful regarding the grand theme of consumption, a subject you dealt with in your famous essay, “Simbolo Comunicazione Consumo" (Symbol, Communication, Consumption), in 1962? At the time you already said in regards to this problem that “in artisan products, even those that are made partially by a machine, there is always a margin of risk”. This margin today might represent a kind of resistance to the immediate consumption of any product.
Certainly, the acceleration of time, the faster pace of everyday life can be traced back to that principle of the “loss of the break” which I wrote about in “Intervallo perduto” in1980. This does not mean refusing certain positive elements that have come about because of speed – you only have to think of all the advantages we have gained from man’s rapid movements, both of the body and the mind. Perhaps a measured and balanced presence of the “handmade” concept could represent an attitude (one that is already present in the philosophy of artisan culture), capable on the one hand of humanising products and on the other of contributing to having a responsible relationship towards all those daily objects that surround us, without transforming them into “something else”.
Gillo, what does “something else” mean, with regards to the role of the “handmade” and its relation with industrial manufacturing? We have all learnt from you that there is no difference between industrial series and a unique piece, because the aesthetic dimension is to be found everywhere in everyday life and, obviously, in places where art is produced and exhibited. You have to know how to recognise it, in design, in architecture, in fashion and in graphics, but obviously also in craftsmanship. Consider for example some of the exhibitions that took place during the Triennale, from the one you curated dedicated to Kitsch, to the exhibition of the works of a great artisan like Pier Luigi Ghianda.
With his hands and the tools available to him, man evidently creates likenesses, fetishes of himself, of his “divinities”, of his ghosts. These objects, these “fetishes”, will finish supporting the presence of a Urform, in the Goethean sense of original matrix, which will justify the simultaneous presence of a utilitarian and functional data on the one hand, and on the other of an artistic, magic, mythical value, in every product. Let us never forget that no project, even the most advanced on an industrial scale, can do without the “handmade”, or rather, that symbolic and narrative element that escapes any particular denomination or utilisation.
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